lessons from NYC

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While going though some notebooks, I came across an excerpt I wrote years ago about living in New York City ….

Recently married. Graduates with high-end degrees. We find ourselves having to lie just to get an interview for a place to live. Extravagant lies to people who don’t care.

We do it. Accept this new way of living.

We land in Sunnyside, a friendly community of Mexican and Irish families. Tony and Helen from Dublin are our landlords for a small space with high ceilings, wood floors, and black and white tile in the bathroom... it’s the first time I’ve seen a tub separate from a shower and I am elated.

The romanticism of the first year of marriage and living in ‘the city’ thins as hours of work outweigh moments of rest. Days turn to months as I travel all over the island in a polyester tuxedo. Taming my long hair into food-safe styles turns me androgynous. I offer hors d'oeuvres in museums after hours, corndogs at the Big Top Circus on the upper West side, beef braciole on a yacht in dirty harbor water. Transplants from around the country, dreams waylaid in order to pay rent, we don cheap suits and bow ties to serve from trays half our body weight to strangers we do not wish to know.

But then, with a little white lie, I con my way into the kitchen. Every morning at 5am I hop onto the 7, transfer to the 1 or 9 to the village. Grab a coffee at Grey Dog Cafe which opens right at 6, walk past Murray’s Cheese Shop and Faicco’s Sausage, past tightly packed brownstones to stairs leading underground... to work with Rick, the executive chef, Paul, the sous, and Grace from Poland, with an accent so thick her hybrid language is more sounds than recognizable words.

Hours of folding and filling and cutting mushroom strudels; roasting bones for vats of broth; mashing berries for jams and coulis; rendering duck fat; rolling chicken roulades; scoring and blanching and peeling and seeding tomatoes; roasting peppers directly on the wall sized stoves, heat pouring into every corner of the space ... pots clanking, spoons tapping, a dance of efficiency. Repetition. Muscle memory.

On the subway home, thankful to finally sit after 10 hours on my feet, I write everything down from the day. Recipes, techniques, ingredients, how to score pastry, how to work with phyllo dough so it doesn’t dry out or rip; how to wrap meat with twine; how to sear, sauté, steam, poach and reduce; how to cut radishes into roses, how to make a quart of remoulade; how to make 15 lbs of brownies... 

I never dreamed I'd work in a kitchen. Catering was a third job to make ends meet while I relentlessly pursued my "true" passion of acting & teaching. 

But there were contrary signs all along...unexplainable joys in all the wrong places. What felt like a detour at the time, turned out to be a true north. The kitchen is now a space of clarity. The art of baking, a meditation. I still act and teach, but my real passion is more to do with authenticity and the how of every day living, which extends into everything I do. 

But then I read somewhere that joy is our natural state of being, and since then I've used that as a sort of compass or barometer to my true north.

There is a difference between living a life away from and living a life towards. 

The secret is reframing. And you're the only one who can do it in a way that will align with your true joy. 

  • Check in with the level of joy before taking action.
  • Allow the whispers of something wild, deep within, to be heard.
  • Acknowledge your desires.
  • Breathe from this infinite space of what if... 

always in motion,


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